Question: What makes you afraid? Don’t be a tough guy (or gal) and say nothing makes you afraid. Be honest: What makes you afraid?
Maybe a better question is: What makes you anxious?
Did you know in 2019 the number one prescribed drug in Tennessee was Alprazolam? A drug used to treat anxiety and panic attacks? The reason I bring this up is because Tennessee is unique in this drug of choice. In most States the number one prescribed drug are drugs used to treat high blood pressure. Tennessee was the only state whose “go to drug” was for anxiety and panic attacks.
Why are we so afraid and anxious? I blame it on the Tennessee Titans.
You also get a glimpse into the fear and anxiety in our country by the number of guns and ammunitions being sold. From March through October of 2020, over 17 million NEW guns were purchased in the United States! That is more new sales in 7 months than any amount sold in any 12-month period in our history! In a country of 300,000,000 people, we now have over 400,000,000 guns!
Why are we so afraid and anxious? What makes you afraid or anxious?
There is a fine line between fear and anxiety. Both fear and anxiety can be real or perceived. One major difference between the two is our response. In most cases, fear stimulates a “fight or flight” impulse. But anxiety can paralyze a person, or cause them to be paranoid, or result in them making bad decisions. At best, fear and anxiety are synonyms. At worst, they are two sides of the same coin.
So, let me ask again: What is it that makes you afraid and/or anxious?
Is it money, or lack thereof?
Is it not knowing what the future holds?
It is your health?
Parenting adult kids?
Where you will live?
The 2020 presidential elections?
The threat of war?
Is it your job or career?
Is it life?
What is it that makes you afraid or anxious?
The Bible says a lot about fear and anxiety. Much has been made about the fact 365 times the Bible says, “Fear not.” That’s one for every day of the year! As we move closer to Christmas, we are reminded the angel said to both Mary and Joseph, “Do not be afraid” (Matthew 1:20 and Luke 1:30). Additionally, there are several verses that admonish us not to be anxious or worried. Below are just a few of those verses:
- Matthew 6:34 – “Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.”
- Philippians 4:6 – “Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.”
- 1 Peter 5:7 – “Cast all your anxiety on Him because He cares for you.”
One person who had every reason to be fearful and anxious was David. As a young man, King Saul tried to kill him. Then, when he became a king himself, King David’s enemies were out to destroy him. King David also had more than his share of troubles at home. His life was characterized by fears, failures, anxieties, and stress. Yet, the Bible says David was a “man after God’s own heart” (1 Samuel 13:14 and Acts 13:22). King David, a prolific song writer, writes about his own fears and anxieties in Psalm 27.
This past week we experienced our first cold snap of the winter. I spent much of the week frustrated because COVID has made churches fearful of housing our friends experiencing homelessness. It may not be healthy, but when it gets cold, I get anxious for people who have nowhere to go. I was sharing my frustration with a friend, who has far more experience in this realm then myself. He said to me, “Kevin, you can’t cure homelessness. All you can do is manage it.” Likewise, you can’t cure fear and anxiety. Fear and anxiety are part of life. While you may not be able to cure fear and anxiety, you can (and must) learn to manage it. How can you manage fear and anxiety? King David tells us how in Psalm 27.
David writes this psalm while he was King of Israel. King David begins, “The LORD is my light and my salvation—whom shall I fear? The LORD is the stronghold of my life—of whom shall I be afraid?” (Psalm 27:1) It should be pointed out that every time David uses the word “LORD” in this psalm it is always in all capitals. This signifies the Hebrew word being translated is YHWH. When David says “LORD,” he is not talking about some unknown, far away God. He is talking about the One true God. The God of Israel. The God who so desires a personal relationship with us He gave us His personal name—YHWH. The same name God gave Moses in Exodus 3. King David says YHWH, the One true God, the God of Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, and Moses, THAT God, is my “light…salvation…stronghold.”
In Psalm 27:1, David mentions three things YHWH is to him. David says YHWH is his “light,” his “salvation,” and his “stronghold.” One component of “light” is that light gives direction. As King of Israel, David would need divine guidance and direction. We may not be kings and queens, but we are royalty. Like King David, we need direction. The world is a dark place. At times the darkness can be overwhelming and all consuming. Fear and anxiety can paralyze us. We don’t know what to do next. We are afraid to take another step. What we need is light. God is our “light.” He is our direction.
In context, the word “salvation” in Psalm 27:1 does not refer to eternal life and forgiveness of sins. There is no doubt it is YWHW who provides us with eternal salvation through faith in His Son. But here, what King David is referring to is deliverance. David needs deliverance from whatever the crisis is that is causing him to fear and to be anxious.
How many times has God delivered you from heartache, turmoil, fear, and anxiety? How many times have you cried out, “Lord, if you don’t intervene, I am not going to survive?” How many times has it been your own actions and your own bad decisions that resulted in the chaos and destruction you faced, but you asked God for help, and He came to the rescue, giving you another chance, and another one, and another one? How many times has God been your “light” and your “salvation?” How many times has God been your direction and your deliverer?
King David said YHWH was his “light,” his “salvation,” and his “stronghold.” Do you remember playing tag as a child? I was reminded of this a few weeks ago. Misty and I were at the park with Sophie, and some older boys were playing tag. In the game of tag someone is “It.” “It’s” sole purpose is to chase the others and tag one of them. Once tagged, the other person becomes “It,” and the game continues. Somewhere in the vicinity of where the game is played is a sacred space called “home-base.” If “It” is chasing you, you can run to home-base, hold tight to home-base and call, “Safe.” As long as you remain in physical contact with home-base you are safe from “It.” In the game of tag, home-base is the “stronghold.” You can run to home-base and be safe. King David says YHWH is “home-base.” In the game of life, you can run to God, your “stronghold,” and once there, “It,” whatever or whomever “It” is, cannot touch you or harm you. As your “stronghold,” God is your defender, protecting you from all forms of “It.”
YHWH is our “light,” our “salvation,” and our “stronghold.” God is our direction, our deliverer, and our defender. Therefore, “whom shall I fear…of whom shall I be afraid?” This brings us to our first point of application: When you are afraid and anxious, seek the LORD by affirming your faith in Him alone.
Who, or what, was causing King David to be anxious and afraid? He writes, “When evil men advance against me to devour my flesh, when my enemies and my foes attack me, they will stumble and fall. Though an army besiege me, my heart will not fear; though war break out against me, even then will I be confident” (Psalm 27:2-3). King David was facing a crisis from personal friends and public attacks. He was facing enemies on all sides. People wanted him dead and nations wanted to conquer him. David felt as if his whole world was falling apart. Through reminding himself of who YHWH is—light, salvation, stronghold—David found confidence to keep going because he knew his God was his direction, deliverer, and defender. The threats were real, but in reality, there was really nothing to fear.
Psalm 27:4 is key to the entire psalm. King David writes, “One thing I ask of the LORD, this is what I seek:that I may dwell in the house of the LORD all the days of my life, to gaze upon the beauty of the LORD and to seek him in his temple” (Psalm 27:4). The one thing you must do, the key to maintaining your sanity when things around you are crumbling, is, seek the Lord. Over the years people have asked me why they are going through what they are going through. They ask, “Why would God allow this to happen?” I learned a long time ago not to give simple, easy answers. I learned a long time ago not to answer questions for which there are no answers. I learned a long time ago to say, “I don’t know. But one thing I do know is God wants you to seek Him during this time and not run from Him.” When you are faced with trials and tribulations, fears and anxieties, press harder into God! Don’t pull farther away from God! To put it another way: When afraid and anxious, seek the LORD by focusing on Him.
King David used three words to describe what it means to focus on God. Those three words are “dwell,” “gaze,” and “seek.” By dwelling on God, we gain confidence in Him. By gazing on God’s beauty, we strengthen our commitment to Him. By seeking God, we deepen our communion with Him.
Notice what happens when we focus on God instead of focusing on our fears and anxieties. “For in the day of trouble he will keep me safe in his dwelling; he will hide me in the shelter of his tabernacle and set me high upon a rock” (Psalm 27:5) Dwelling on God gives us safety. Gazing on God provides us shelter. Seeking God results in security.
King David continues, “Then my head will be exalted above my enemies who surround me; at his tabernacle will I sacrifice with shouts of joy; I will sing and make music to the LORD” (Psalm 27:6). Focusing on God gives us a new perspective, replacing fear with joy, and anxiety with worship.
At first glance this seems like a good place to stop this psalm. Our God, YHWH, is our direction, deliverer, and defender. By focusing on God, we gain confidence, strengthen commitment, and deepen communion. As we seek Him, God promises safety, shelter, and security. As a result, God gives us a new perspective, turns our fears into joy, and our anxieties into worship. Hallelujah and Amen! I will say it again, Hallelujah and Amen!
But the reality is, as great as these things are in helping overcome fear and anxiety, often, after all these things, and even though we don’t want it to, fear and anxiety return. And they can return with a vengeance! What do we do then? When fears and anxieties return (and they will) seek the LORD by redirecting your focus to the LORD on heartfelt prayer. King David continues, “Here my voice when I call, O LORD; be merciful to me and answer” (Psalm 27:7). You can feel the pain in David’s voice. You can sense his fear and anxiety and desperation. Have you ever been there—pain, fear, anxiety? Have you ever cried out to God in desperation?
What is heartfelt prayer? First, it is a prayer that flows out of an awareness of your need. David, the king of Israel, knows he needs God to intervene. If God doesn’t intervene, David knows he will be destroyed. Second, heartfelt prayer is a prayer that is based on mercy. We have no right to ask God for anything. We must come into His presence with humility, asking for grace and mercy. Third, heartfelt prayer is a prayer that expects answers. This sound contradictory to what I just stated, but it’s not. Because our God is a personal God, because He is YHWH. In humility, after acknowledging our need for mercy, we can ask God for anything, expecting Him to answer.
But we have to acknowledge there is something more important than answered prayers. King David continues, “My heart says to you, ‘Seek his face!’ Your face, LORD, I will seek. Do not hide your face from me, do not turn your servant away in anger; you have been my helper. Do not reject me or forsake me, O God my Savior” (Psalm 27:8-9).Heartfelt prayer is a prayer that seeks God Himself, not just answers. I believe, in this part of his prayer, David is repenting. He recognizes God has every right to hide his face and turn away in anger. YHWH has every right to reject him. But David is crying out, in repentance, for mercy and help. More important than being delivered from your circumstances is being delivered from your sins. Salvation comes from God, and God alone. YHWH is our only hope! “Though my father and mother forsake me, the LORD will receive me” (Psalm 27:10).
Fifth, heartfelt prayer is linked with obedience, especially in times of trials. King David continues, “Teach me your way, O LORD; lead me in a straight path because of my oppressors. Do not turn me over to the desire of my foes, for false witnesses rise up against me, breathing out violence” (Psalm 27:11-12). David is praying, “God, I am being mistreated and abused. I don’t deserve what I am going through. People want me dead. I am praying to you, asking for help. Tell me, God, what You want me to do, and I will do it.” It is extremely important to be obedient to God. It is vitally important when we ask God for help and direction, when He does speak, we obey. When your world is falling apart, and there is danger, discouragement, and depression on all sides, press into God and His Word, and be obedient when He speaks.
When fear and anxiety invade our lives, what are we to do? The most important thing to do is seek the LORD; seek YHWH: (1) Seek the LORD by affirming your faith in Him. (2) Seek the LORD by focusing on Him. (3) When fear and anxiety return, seek the LORD through heartfelt prayer: (a) Prayer that flows out of an awareness of your need. (b) Prayer that is based on God’s mercy. (c) Prayer that expects answers. (d) Prayer that seeks God more than it seeks answers. (e) Prayer that is linked to obedience.
And finally, the last thing this psalm tells us to do when we are afraid and anxious is, continue seeking the LORD by continually reaffirming your faith in Him. King David concludes this beautiful psalm by saying, “I am still confident of this: I will see the goodness of the LORD in the land of the living. Wait for the LORD; be strong and take heart and wait for the LORD” (Psalm 27:13-14). David finds confidence in the righteousness, goodness, and justice of God. In the end, as hard as things may be right now, God’s goodness will prevail. Until that time, however, King David implores us to “wait.”
Do you see the irony? Over and over again King David says to “seek the LORD.” Now he tells us to “wait on the LORD.” The truth is, waiting on God, and seeking God, go hand in hand. We seek God with everything we have and everything we are, and we wait on God for directions and next steps. If we don’t seek AND wait, we act too soon, we respond too quickly, and we usually make a bad situation worse. The result is greater fear and increased anxiety.
In scuba diving you are taught if you ever become entangled by fishing line or seaweed or, if diving in California, kelp, the first thing to do is stop swimming, take a deep breath, relax, and wait. Let things settle down and then slowly untangle yourself. The more you fight the more you will entangle yourself and the more fearful and anxious you will become. I don’t think King David was a scuba diver, but I do think this is what he is saying here. When faced with hardships in life that cause you fear and anxiety, the more you try on your own, the more entangled you become, and the more fear and anxiety will increase. Instead, seek God, take a deep breath, and wait on God to bring you out of the mess you are in. Remember, YHWH is your light, your salvation, and your stronghold.
YHWH is our direction, our deliverer, and our defender. Therefore, there is nothing to fear and no need to be anxious. Instead of focusing on our problems, focus on God by dwelling in Him, gazing on Him, and seeking after Him. When fear and anxiety persist, the most important thing to do is seek the LORD. Seek YHWH: (1) Seek the LORD by affirming your faith in Him. (2) Seek the LORD by focusing on Him. (3) When fear and anxiety return, seek the LORD through heartfelt prayer: (a) Prayer that flows out of an awareness of your need. (b) Prayer that is based on God’s mercy. (c) Prayer that expects answers. (d) Prayer that seeks God more than it seeks answers. (e) Prayer that is linked to obedience. (4) Continue seeking the LORD by continually reaffirming your faith in Him. God is righteous. His mercy and grace are eternal. And, finally, finally, WAIT. Why wait? Because God is good and His timing is perfect.
We have taken this psalm apart verse-by-verse, phrase-by-phrase. Sometimes, in doing so, we lose the message. In closing, let’s read the psalm in its entirety.
The Lord is my light and my salvation—
whom shall I fear?
The Lord is the stronghold of my life—
of whom shall I be afraid?
When the wicked advance against me
to devour me,
it is my enemies and my foes
who will stumble and fall.
Though an army besiege me,
my heart will not fear;
though war break out against me,
even then I will be confident.
One thing I ask from the Lord,
this only do I seek:
that I may dwell in the house of the Lord
all the days of my life,
to gaze on the beauty of the Lord
and to seek him in his temple.
For in the day of trouble
he will keep me safe in his dwelling;
he will hide me in the shelter of his sacred tent
and set me high upon a rock.
Then my head will be exalted
above the enemies who surround me;
at his sacred tent I will sacrifice with shouts of joy;
I will sing and make music to the Lord.
Hear my voice when I call, Lord;
be merciful to me and answer me.
My heart says of you, “Seek his face!”
Your face, Lord, I will seek.
Do not hide your face from me,
do not turn your servant away in anger;
you have been my helper.
Do not reject me or forsake me,
God my Savior.
Though my father and mother forsake me,
the Lord will receive me.
Teach me your way, Lord;
lead me in a straight path
because of my oppressors.
Do not turn me over to the desire of my foes,
for false witnesses rise up against me,
spouting malicious accusations.
I remain confident of this:
I will see the goodness of the Lord
in the land of the living.
Wait for the Lord;
be strong and take heart
and wait for the Lord.
Hallelujah! And Amen!